Tough Traveling: Vampires
Tough Traveling is an interesting and thought-provoking meme started by Nathan @ Fantasy Review Barn: each week Nathan chooses a topic from The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynn Jones, and challenges everyone to come up with a list of books featuring that trope.
Come join the fun!
This week’s topic: Vampires!
VAMPIRES are increasingly rare on the TOUR. They have been attracted over to the Horror Tour by offers of better pay. Where they appear, you will find up to date Vampires wear expensive sunglasses and wish to drain you of energy rather than blood.
Vampires have always fascinated me, and my first substantial encounter with them was through Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, one of the most blood-chilling books I ever read: the image of the undead child knocking on his former friend’s window, inviting him to go out and play, still has the power to send shivers down my spine.
Another book that had caught my imagination in the past was I Am Legend by Richard Matheson: a virus has turned humanity into a horde of blood-thirsty vampires and the only survivor, Richard Neville, spends his days going around and killing the slumbering creatures, while at night he barricades himself in his home fending off their attacks.
And imagine my surprise, as I read JRR Tolkien’s Silmarillion, when I found the character of Thuringwethil: her name in Sindarin means “woman of secret shadow” and she was one of Sauron’s minions, a monstrous messenger flying through the night skies in the shape of a terrifying vampire-bat with iron claws. Beleriand was the birth-place of vampires, not Transilvania!
But that was in the good, old days… before vampires became sparkly things and developed angsty feelings, so that I turned my back on the trope of blood suckers, going for greener (or should I say “redder”?) pastures. Luckily for me, in recent times more enlightened authors decided to do away with sparkle and angst, and gave vampire-dom a new lease on life – well, as much as the undead can claim that of course…
Take for example the vampires in Justin Cronin’s The Passage: they are not even called vampires, to be honest, but virals, since they are the product of a secret genetic experiment with the goal of prolonging human life. The first subject of the test, death row inmates, are changed by the modified bat virus they are exposed to, and turn into strong, agile and inhumanly strong creatures. When they escape from the lab they proceed to kill everyone in their path, or to infect new subjects, forcing what remains of humanity to live in heavily guarded enclaves where the lights must burn all through the night…. That’s what I call scary!
On a lighter note, there are the vampires in Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series: like all other preternaturals – werewolves, ghosts, and so on – they mix with Victorian society in perfect harmony and most of them are the very soul of London’s night life. The best representative of the species is Lord Akeldama, an old vampire with a heightened sense of fashion and for whom flamboyance is the only way to go. His foppish appearance and manners hide, however, a keen ability to read people and a shrewd political sense.
And last, but not least by all means, comes one the newest players on the scene, Fortitude Scott from M.L. Brennan’s Generation V: he’s a transitioning vampire, which means that when we first meet him he’s more human than vampire, yet he comes from an old and powerful line of blood-suckers. Fortitude is the exact opposite of what you would expect from his kind: he’s self-deprecating and something of a loser, and he hates the whole idea about being a vampire, but when push comes to shove he knows how to tap the reserves of strength and viciousness of his nature and turn them to good. There’s a great balance of darkness and light in Fort that makes him a great character and – probably – an awesome vampire. For that we will have to wait a little, but it will be worth it!
Oh, by the way… tonight there will be a full moon. Are you sure you want to be around? Really, really sure….?